Multinational companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola are pushing to water down legislation that would ban products made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Province, the New York Times reported Sunday.
China has attempted to cement state power over millions of Xinjiang’s Muslim citizens, mostly Uyghur Muslims as well as Kazakhs and other minorities. The ruling Communist Party has placed Uyghurs in so-called re-education camps that attempt to erase their attachment to Islam, and has also embarked on a campaign of forced sterilization of Uyghur women.
Many global supply chains are based in Xinjiang, including for cotton and coal, and China has employed Uyghur forced labor for various factories. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law, which was passed by House 406-3 in September and is currently under consideration in the Senate, would ban imports of goods from Xinjiang unless US customs officials can verify that the goods were not produced by forced labor.
However, multinational companies are pushing against the legislation, saying that even if they do not support the use of forced labor, the bill could negatively impact their supply chains. In the same way Nike and Coca-Cola, the tech giant Apple is also pushing to weaken certain restrictions, the Washington post reported last week.
Coca-Cola “strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain” and employs third-party auditors to enforce the policy, the company said in a statement to Times. Nike said it “did not lobby” the legislation, but had “constructive discussions” with congressional aides to keep its supply chain free from forced labor.
Pro-business groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, have also joined the lobbying efforts.
A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in March this year concluded that at least 80,000 Uyghurs have been expelled from their homes to work in factories in other parts of China.